The aim of this study was to determine the clinical differences between early and conventional loading protocols for dental implants. A comprehensive search of the Medline, Embase, and OVID databases for studies published through January 10, 2015 was conducted. Fourteen studies were included in our analysis. We found that early loading imposed a significantly higher risk of implant failure than did conventional loading (risk ratio = 2.09, 95% confidence interval [CI] [1.18, 3.69], P = 0.01), while no significant differences between the methods were found with regards to the marginal bone loss (weighted mean differences [WMD] = 0.11, 95% CI [-0.07, 0.28], P = 0.23), periotest value (WMD = 0.02, 95% CI [-0.83, 0.87], P = 0.96), or implant stability quotient (WMD = 0.79, 95% CI [-0.03, 1.62], P = 0.06). As for the health status of the peri-implant tissue, conventionally loaded implants demonstrated better performance than did early loaded implants. Subgroup analyses demonstrated that the sample size, time of publication, loading definition, implant position, extent, and restoration type influenced the results. Although early implant loading is convenient and comfortable for patients, this method still cannot achieve the same clinical outcomes as the conventional loading method.